Planning and Installing your French kitchen

One of the most exciting parts of any new build or renovation project is the moment when the kitchen can be installed. In a new build, some careful planning will mean that it is easy to create a dream kitchen without spending a fortune. The kitchen really is the ‘heart’ of the home, so it makes sense to plan carefully in order to create the ideal environment. Different households have different requirements so the first stage is to sit and list all the things that the room will be used for. Do you want to eat meals there or in a separate dining room? Do you want your kitchen table to be a focal point or would you prefer it to be in a coin repas? What about a small ‘bar’ area for eating breakfast and light snacks? Where are you going to sit when friends and neighbours come round for an apero? Will appliances such as washing machines and large freezers, be in the kitchen or in a separate room (buanderie)? Do you cook a lot? Do you entertain frequently? Are there children in the household and if so, how old are they? All of these questions and more, need to be answered. This is perhaps, the most important part of the kitchen design process and not to be rushed. So get a pen and paper, a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses, take your time and think long and hard about all the things you would like in your kitchen!

Next it is time to consider the practical constraints. By this, we mean the size and shape of the room, presence of doors, windows and so forth. In an ideal world, the layout of the kitchen would be planned at the same time that the plans of the house itself are drawn and take all the owners requirements into consideration. However, this is not always the case (for example when purchasing from a developer or ‘off the peg’), so the next stage is to draw the existing room plus a range of appliances, cupboards, table, chairs and so forth to scale on paper and see which arrangement works best. There are also some practical factors to consider:

DO leave worktop space either side of the sink and hob / cooker.

DO keep the sink / hob and fridge reasonably close to each other and where you can move from one to another easily.

DO place sinks and plumbed in appliances where waste pipes can get to the drains easily – usually this means against an exterior wall.

DO place cooker hoods against an outside wall to extract fumes.

DO consider a gas hob / oven especially if you live in an area prone to power cuts.

DON’T place a fridge / freezer next to a heat source.

DON’T put wall cupboards over the sink.

DON’T put a hob or a sink in a corner. In fact, think very carefully about how the corners are to be used, as they make poor working space. One solution is to sink a bin into the worktop. This is the type of feature found in luxury kitchens but is cheap and simple to install.

Kitchen showrooms are a great source of ideas and inspiration. New products are constantly appearing on the market. Although many of these can be expensive to begin with, they very quickly trickle down into the mainstream DIY stores. The big stores carry a good range of kitchens to suit all budgets and tastes. Many sell appliances too, although the choice may be more limited than a specialist shop. The Internet is an excellent source of discount appliances; also look in the pages jaunes under destockage electromenageur to find discontinued lines, seconds and end of range items. It is a good idea to visit electrical stores to see the appliances in the flesh and investigate their features before ordering online. Many stores will also help you plan your kitchen; Lapeyre and Leroy Merlin are among those offering this service. Apart from design, many of the bigger stores offer a variety of services including delivery and fitting. Some also sell online, allowing you to plan, choose and order your new kitchen from the comfort of home. It is also worth investigating loyalty cards and bonus schemes; there are often very good deals to be had, for example, interest free payments or cashback.

More upmarket showrooms are well worth visiting for a variety of reasons. Their display kitchens have been planned to ‘show off’ the best features so it is quick and easy to apply their storage ideas to another kitchen. The kitchens often feature labour saving ideas such as installing the dishwasher at working height with a cupboard below it. Eye level ovens are commonplace but what about an eye level coffee machine? Island units are increasingly popular and in an upmarket showroom will often feature clever ideas such as integral storage for condiments and a griddle or plancha. With a little ingenuity, all these features can be incorporated into a budget kitchen and will help create a tres belle cuisine! It is also worth taking the time to chat about your requirements. Individually owned stores may well be able to offer a surprisingly reasonable overall package to include installation. There will also be some flexibility on prices and it is well worth finding out when the ex-display models are to be sold, as discounts of 40% on the list price are common.

Visiting a showroom, especially one where there are multiple kitchens, will not only inspire but will also allow you to clarify your own requirements. Opening drawers and poking around helps visualise the amount of storage space needed. An increasing number of pull out storage solutions are available for corner units and drawer dividers can be customised to suit the individual kitchen. Incorporating storage for oils and condiments close to the hob or cooking area, gives the kitchen a sleek and streamlined look.

Freestanding kitchens are increasingly popular and now sold by a wide range of suppliers. Known as a cuisine independent, in a freestanding kitchen, individual units replace the fitted cupboards and special units house the sink and cooking elements. Eye level oven and microwaves can also be accommodated. The huge advantage of these from a design point of view is that it is much easier to mix and match. For example, an old buffet or sideboard found in a brocante, may be the perfect place to store crockery and linen. Open shelving is another nice, inexpensive storage solution to add to an un-fitted kitchen and looks very attractive. From a design point of view, it is sensible to choose plain, light coloured units and add colour to the kitchen with accessories, chairs, coloured splashbacks, crockery, even flowers. Doorknobs add loads of detail and interest; they are also easy and relatively cheap to replace.

With the finishing touches in place, it is time to sit back and enjoy the first apero in the new kitchen. Now you did remember to build in storage space for the various drinks and nibbles, didn’t you?


Make a list of essential items and white goods

Most appliances are standard sizes – some like microwaves are not

Set a budget

Make space for separate recycling containers

Fit lots of sockets

Make sure the passage between the sink/cooker/fridge is kept clear

Do install an island unit in large kitchens

If your kitchen is smaller, consider using a mobile trolley or a ‘peninsula’

If using dark cupboards, consider using additional lighting

Ensure food preparation areas are well lit

Plain doors are easier to clean

Consider mixing materials – for example granite and wood look great together

Mixer tap – mitigeur

Tap – robinet

Drainer – egouttoir

Single bowl - evier en 1 bac

Double bowl - evier en 2 bac

Hob – table de cuisson

Integral (appliances) - encastrable

Free standing units –cuisine independants

Work top – plan de travail

Worktop prices

Laminates 30€ per linear meter

Beech 150€ per linear meter

Granite 300€ per linear meter

Oak 300€ per linear meter

Corian 500€ per linear meter

TTURA (recycled glass) 680€ per linear meter

Copyright - Catharine Higginson


@ Stu - love it!!

OK........I know it's a bathroom. Before some clever dick comments.

Don't do this...............

Well that still sounds like it was worth it! I love solid wood kitchens, the craftsmanship was second to none. It was a pleasure to open and close the drawers & cupboards. I'd love to recreate something like that again. We had some really clever top corner units which cut the corners of the rooms so giving us useful space but without being clunky and in yer face. We used Finewood Furniture in Farnham, Surrey - brilliant job. We tried to recreate a similar kitchen using a local menuisiere in France and it's nice but it's not as good as the real thing we had in Farnham.

Ours was shaker style too - ash with Black Granite & matching upstands on the worktop rather than tiles. We chose a bold red colour & had quite a modern feel. The only pictures I can find seem to involve our cat and not much of the units so not much point me putting them up.

All solid maple fronts "in frame". What a nightmare to make and varnish. Took me a year, though I was working full time and travelling quite a bit. The maple cost me £200 and the machine £5OOO. I still have the machine :D

Not a huge kitchen, so Imade some special units for above the sink. Not ideal but gave us more space. The tall diagonal unit in the corenr is the Fridge. I made all the units different depths to add a bit of "design". That is Africa Black granite on the peninsula. Love the stuff. We have corain now and I would steer clear of that as it marks so easily.

Polished concrete Suzanne :)

worktops are going to be interesting, we can't find granite big enough for the central island so will have to go with a manmade option with no joins but I love granite. It's so robust and it looks great. Any ideas?

I've kept mine too, the photos of the kitchen were really the selling point of the house, I loved that kitchen. It was there I really began to enjoy cooking, many memories. Many an evening or weekend creating fabulous 4 - 5 course meals for friends, family or just the 2 of us. Certain music brings back the memories of those wonderful years. I really like the SubZero range with refrigerated drawers for fruit/veg but they are impossibly expensive.

I must scan the images of or house sale brochure from the UK. It's the only decent photos I have.

agree Stuart - just looking at kitchens - it's the one part of the new house project that really excites me. My kitchen currently is a reasonable size but apart from 2 bar stools you cannot congregate in there without getting in my way, so the new one has to be huge. I want to seat 12-14 people easily in the same room as the kitchen, very open plan and I also want a large larder walk in room. Hopefully this latter room will minimise the number of cupboards I have made as that makes up a large part of the cost (after appliances). I'm really looking forward to planning it out. Of course at the moment I have the theoretical choice of hundreds of kitchens (I'm in London) but back in southern France I know my choices will be extremely limited. I really want a good quality wood kitchen that will last for years & get better with age - like a good bottle of wine!

That's good advice Stu, refrigerated drawers are a great choice too, still quite expensive though.

Oh, I know what I wanted to add. If you have the choice, put plenty of large drawers in your kitchen. If I had the space, the majority of units would be drawers.

Nice article James. I broke away from Engineering for three years and ran a kitchen shop in the UK. Just before that, I had built my own. So if anyone needs further advice don't hesitate.